Unity

Jun 16, 2017

Following the early morning shooting at the June 14 congressional baseball practice, many on Capitol Hill and around the country spent the day in shock over what had transpired.

Our state delegation was preparing to open the Nebraska Breakfast in the basement of the Dirksen Senate Office Building when we heard the news. I stepped to the podium to share the little information we had with attendees and asked for their prayers. Each member of the delegation offered his or her own reflections as news reports continued to roll in throughout our hour together. It was certainly a comfort to be among fellow Nebraskans as we tried to comprehend what was unfolding. We concluded the breakfast with a prayerful moment of silence.

As I send this column, Majority Whip Steve Scalise is in critical condition, having already endured multiple surgeries with more to come. Matt Mika, a former congressional staff member who now serves as director of government relations for Tyson Foods, has reportedly improved to serious condition. Another congressional staff member, Zack Barth, and one Capitol Police Special Agent, David Bailey, have been treated and released. A second Capitol Police Special Agent, Crystal Griner, remains in the hospital in good condition.

Their stories of heroism inspire us. The rapid actions of Special Agents Bailey and Griner saved many, many lives. Local Alexandria, Virginia, police officers arrived within minutes to help take down the shooter. These brave members of law enforcement remind us to be thankful every day for all the first responders who willingly put their lives on the line to protect us. Members of Congress also rushed to each other’s aid, offering medical support to the wounded.

The horror is still fresh, but what we cannot do is allow the lessons of this attack to fade as time marches on. Unfortunately, it has become commonplace for too many Americans to use words without regard to impact or accuracy. I have never seen so much inflammatory rhetoric based on misinformation as we have experienced in recent months. It elicits emotional responses and can lead to, as in this case, destructive actions.

In a recent column, I mentioned the “gotcha” mentality rampant in politics and how it divides us and prevents real, substantive conversations. People too willingly paint those who disagree with them as not only wrong but even heartless, inhuman, or evil due to their differing beliefs. Threats, or worse, then follow with little thought to consequence. If we truly want to prevent tragedies and bring our country together, this cannot continue.

The heinous attack was made on the Republican baseball team, but we have seen countless examples of unity between both parties in the wake of the shooting. The Democrat baseball team prayed together in their dugout for their colleagues when they heard the news. Members of Congress resoundingly took to the airwaves to disavow the attack. President Trump offered words of reassurance to the nation. As Speaker Paul Ryan said on the House floor, “An attack on one of us is an attack on all of us,” which was met with an extended standing ovation from the entire chamber.  

Notably, the Congressional Baseball Game went on as scheduled, with moving tributes to the injured. Special Agent Bailey threw out the first pitch, and the Republican and Democrat teams prayed together on the field before the game. Numerous players from both teams wore the colors of Steve Scalise’s beloved LSU Tigers. Andrea and I were honored to be part of the record crowd of nearly 25,000 people who came to show support and enjoy the game together.

We are all human beings, and we are all Americans. My hope, prayer, and call to action would be for our interactions with one another to reflect this unifying truth, even when we disagree.  

Or, perhaps, especially when we disagree.